The Common Grey Catbird

Most backyard feeders get catbirds in the US. But I noticed an interesting thing about the catbirds in my yard. Catbirds are aggressive and territorial hence the name. But the 3 catbirds that regularly visit my backyard are exceptionally aggressive towards starlings. Comically so.

Earlier in the week as I watched my feeders and worked on Stalker Dreams, I heard a commotion and it was super loud! I looked up and there was a catbird and a starling fighting on the ground under one of our feeders and the catbird was definitely winning. As the starling gave up and tried to fly away the catbird grabbed the starlings wing and plucked a large feather from it.

On Thursday morning, back outside I continued to watch my feeders while deleting the rabbit hole Aislinn fell down in Stalker Dreams and that took up 13,000 words and added nothing to the story, I noticed there were 3 catbirds walking the ground under the feeders. Just walking back and forth and not eating. I made a joke they were acting as sentries. However, they weren’t bothering the red bellied woodpecker hanging off the finch feeder nor the half dozen house finches eating from the feeders, nor the red-wing blackbird. In other words the feeders were busy with close to a dozen birds eating out of them. The catbirds were bothering none of them. And then the commotion started. My singing and chirping birds got quiet and the catbirds became loud and raucous. I look up and nine starlings have landed in the yard and those 3 catbirds are not having it. They were chasing the starlings even though outnumbered and the starlings were running.

I googled this phenomenon, surely there’s a reason catbirds hate starlings and the internet knows the answer. Not so much. The internet claims catbirds will chase off all birds in its territory. Except that isn’t happening. I’ve been watching for days and the only birds the catbirds get aggressive with are the starlings. Now, they will pluck poor Lola’s hair if she gets too close to them while they are sitting on the back fence, ditto Poor Kelly. Kelly goes after them back and nearly caught one, but Lola just runs away from them. Kelly has more hunting instincts.

The point is, I would expect the catbirds to go after the cardinals, woodpeckers, and the dozen or so house finches that seem to constantly be at the feeders if it was a territory thing and they don’t, they only go after the starlings. Also, unlike the cardinals and house finches, the catbirds do not seem to fight amongst themselves. Sometimes, I’ll get 2 pairs of cardinals at a time (two male and two female) and then it’s on! They fight so loudly and so brutally all the other birds, even the damn sparrows leave the yard and it takes a while once it ends for the other birds to come back. (I hate the sparrows… we had gutter guards put on the house when we had to replace the roof and the stupid tiny house sparrows have torn sections of the gutter guards off and are nesting in our gutters under the guards they left in place also they don’t eat at the feeders, they just throw gobs of bird food out onto the ground and then fly away, so I wish the catbirds would chase them off).

At any rate, I will continue to watch the catbirds chase the starlings out of my yard while the weather is nice and I can work outside. The starlings don’t bother me as much as the sparrows, they are an invasive species, but they aren’t tearing up my house like the sparrows.

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